Faced with severe problems in the island’s electrical system, the government says it will schedule energy-saving blackouts in neighborhoods and shut 118 power-consuming factories for the month of October.
The measures were announced Wednesday night on a television program in which President Fidel Castro acknowledged Cubans’ growing irritation with the island’s faltering electrical system.
Castro has appeared three subsequent nights on a regular round-table discussion on state television, dealing this week with the problems in Cuba’s electrical grid that have grown in recent months.
But no measures were announced until Wednesday, when Vice President Carlos Lage said on the show that a schedule for energy-saving blackouts would soon be published to inform Cubans when their provinces and neighborhoods would be affected.
Castro recognized “the problems created for the population” by recent blackouts linked to a severe mechanical problem in a turbine in Cuba’s most important thermoelectrical plant, the Antonio Guiteras plant in the Matanzas province west of Havana.
Although there are several other thermoelectrical plants across the island of 11 million, they are linked nationwide and a major failure in one can affect regular power supplies for the entire country.
Castro also blamed himself for not earlier realizing the severity of the problem. “An electrical system that has all these problems is a weak system,” he said.
The blackouts have created havoc in Cubans’ daily lives, affecting the flow of water for drinking and bathing in households, causing frozen food to thaw and refrigerated food to go bad, and silencing the fans and air conditioners people here depend upon to get a good night’s sleep in the sweltering tropical heat.
Lage said other measures aimed at saving energy would include cutting the average government workday from eight to 7 1/2 hours and starting school classes a half-hour later.
Additionally, 118 high-energy consuming operations, including steel plants, sugar mills and paper processors, will be shut down the entire month of October, said Lage. Public lighting will also be reduced, he said.
“The cooperation of the population is very important,” said Castro. “It has to be required.”